That’s Poo, Pee and Paper! Everything else going down a toilet can cause a big, big, smelly, hazardous and expensive problem.
In 2017, the world’s attention was drawn to Whitechapel in London, where a blockage had been discovered in the sewer system that, at 250 metres, was longer than four Leaning Towers Of Pisa on their side. This impassible 130 tonne hardened mass was mostly made up from congealed fats, wet wipes, grease, oil, sanitary products, condoms, and cotton wool, plus many other nasties you should never have to imagine. The fatberg, as we all discovered these things were called, quickly acquired the nickname ‘Fatty McFatberg’.
The ‘lucky’ sewerage experts tasked to remove the blockage worked day and night, but their efforts to sort the mess still took nine weeks and cost over £1 million. This affected hundreds of homes and businesses in the area, and sections were later exhibited ‘carefully’ at the Museum of London.
The ‘fatberg’, a thing which had only been in our dictionaries since 2008, had hit the world stage. It was not the first, but it was a biggie, and is now something happening regularly in other cities and towns around the globe.
The reason for the fatberg, indeed the reason for the majority of sewer blockages, is simple – we put things down toilets we shouldn’t, at the same time as our kitchen sinks churn extra fats into the sewer system from our much changed diets compared to 100 years ago.
it is difficult to smile as you watch, and smell, a toilet backing up with gifts you thought had long gone
Fatbergs may be amusing, but if your home or garden is among the one in 445 affected each year by a sewer blockage, it is difficult to smile as you watch, and smell, a toilet backing up with gifts you thought had long gone.
More importantly, most of what the world puts down toilets, baths, sinks
and showers will eventually end up in our rivers and oceans. And the United Nations state only 31% of the globe has access to sanitation services where wastewater is treated.
The solution to this totally unnecessary environmental problem is to use your toilet for just three things – the 3 P’s – Poo, Pee and Paper.
Other than to not forget the final ‘P’ stands for just ‘toilet’ paper (not newspaper, A4 paper, wallpaper, flypaper, litmus paper, graph paper, grease paper, carbon paper, cardboard, books or kitchen roll), it’s that simple. Of course, if you can’t remember the third ‘P’ and live in an area with plentiful water, then it might be better to use a bidet. After all, each year, the adult human flushes around 145 kilograms (think 7 large suitcases) of poo down the toilet, something we need to definitely keep flowing.
As for the ‘fat’ in the fatberg, there are two very useful methods of reducing this part of the problem before it even starts. The first comes from changing our diets to less fatty options, the second from collecting any fats separately that accumulate in the cooking process.
In countries such as Spain, Belgium and Austria, there is often a small container near the kitchen sink for used cooking oils. These are then collected at recycling points and filtered to create energy as biodiesel fuel, animal feed, even detergents. Other countries suggest you include used fats and cooking oils alongside plate scrapings in your local food waste recycling.
Crazy as it sounds, a simple kitchen strainer (cost 50p) could also help save the environment and millions of pounds in unnecessary work. Strainers stop bigger items going down the sink and into the sewers where they tangle with other bigger items and eventually completely block the pipes.
Simple stuff, but considering blocked sewers are normally only noticed when they cause waste to flood or ‘back-up’ into our clean water supplies, homes, offices, schools, etc., it’s quite an important step.
WHY? Impact: Saves 145 kg of your personal waste floating back into your home. Difficulty: Easy. Money-saving: Yes-Big Maybe £100+ Action: Use strainer in sink. Stick to the 3 P’s down the toilet – Poo, Pee and Paper.